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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

September 29, 2003


It's arrived. Earlier this year I was all about megapixels. Now I'm all zoom zooom zoooom. I love the idea of a camera that contains within it a much bigger camera that you'd have to support on a pole.

I've got one out to try. Feels a bit cheap and plasticky compared to the F300, but it works as advertised. Fantastic zoom, rapid focus, full-screen movies, and progressive capture, so you can keep filming until you get the shot you want and then let go of the shutter.

It's not the prettiest camera, but it does what most people want, and it's inexpensive.


Chloé rode her bike without stabilisers for the first time this weekend. I'd taken her a couple of times before. First time, you realise how badly designed a child's bike can be. While her saddle was the right height for her feet reaching the pedals (a bit low if anything), it was way too high for her to feel confident about getting her feet on the ground.

So the second time, I lowered the saddle and she was able to get her balance before starting off and get her feet down when she stopped. So she was able to do it with me holding on to her, but her tendency to swerve 180 degrees as soon as she started was holding her back.

So Sunday morning we went down, and I held on to her going down the pavement. As soon as we got onto the grass in the park, I let go of her, and she just rode off, like she'd been able to do it all along.

It was brilliant, but I wish I'd had the video camera when she rode straight into the rugby posts. The secret is, once she fell off a couple of times and realised it was no big deal, she wasn't worried about it any more.

September 26, 2003


Is "blowsy" the word I'm looking for? This is how I imagined Helen would turn out. She was one of the more attractive girls when we were at school, having developed Class A breasts early on. Her blonde hair was worn long, and I seem to remember a kind of Farrah Fawcett flickback style. I didn't imagine that persisted for long, though there were undoubetdly some dark years in the 80s when she fared no better.

But all that would be speculation, for Helen is one of the many people I never saw again, once I was 18 and had left home. I still have a school photo with her in it, and that's how I always remembered her.

First thing to say about Helen, if Walter Mitty has a female equivalent, she would be it. She lived a rich fantasy life; or you could say she was a compulsive liar. She sat next to me in Maths and a couple of other subjects, and sometimes everything she said was a lie, or a fantasy. She was quite funny in her way. I said to her once, "You should see a psychiatrist," and she immediately said, "My dad's a psychiatrist."


And she looked back to her work, paused for a second and said, "No."

There should be a word for people who are much funnier than you realise they are at the time. I realise now that she was witty and sophisticated, capable of flights of fancy that could bring the house down. My first memory of her, in fact, has her sitting on the school stage waiting to audition for the school play. She was listening to Radio 1 waiting to see if David Soul was number one in the singles charts. It would have been a Tuesday in those days, I guess. Which is odd to think, that it was a Tuesday lunchtime I met her.

She was horrible to me for a year or so, making witheringly sarcastic remarks every time we passed each other on a path or in a corridor. But -- what was it? -- my resilience, or my ability, after a while, to see through her or give back as good as she gave, caused her to warm to me. We were closer and closer for a time; and then I left.

She was on my list, my list of girls I loved. Not in the same obsessive way as Sally, but in a quietly determined way. Once I'd left and moved in to my squalid shared house, she wrote me a number of letters. If Lucy's were the best, Helen's ran a close second. Full of detail and information I hadn't know she'd be willing to give. See, I'd consistently underestimated her, and in letters she was an absolute revelation. More fool me.

It came to a sad end. Whereas Lucy arranged a visit and actually turned up, Helen went through the process of arranging a visit but complicated it with lies and deceit, so that I didn't know if it was supposed to be real or not. First of all, she explained, no way would her dad let her travel alone to London to visit a bloke. So one of my band mates had to phone her dad pretending to be my dad. He had to say he was driving down to see me at the weekend and would be happy to give Helen a lift.

So that was done. But though she wrote and gave exact instructions as to where to meet her and when, she never turned up. I trecked down to St Pancras and waited on the platform for around three hours, but she never showed.

The following week, I got a letter from her, tightly plotted. Her dad had thought to offer my dad petrol money and had phoned him back -- a pretext, I was sure. He'd found out the lie and banned Helen from travelling.

So far so tragic, but then a couple of weeks later I happened to be in town and bumped into Rachel, one of her friends, who told me a different story. Helen's parents, it was, were going away for the weekend. Helen had concocted a likely story of coming down to see me that weekend, but had instead arranged for her real boyfriend to stay over, in her parents house. But they came home early and caught her in the act.

Or something. I wrote to her, accusingly, hurt, wounded, betrayed. She never replied. Later that summer I was in town again and saw her across a crowded pub. I swear she said my name, but there was a mass of people between us, and I was in a wave that was leaking through the main entrance. A year later, I saw her in the Arndale shopping centre, walking with some girl I'd never seen before. And after that, I swear I saw her driving a beige Fiesta, someone in the passenger seat; and she was laughing and smiling as she pulled away.

Lucy said she once walked into a newsagents in Brighton and Helen was working there, behind the counter. That was the last news. I imagined she stayed beautiful for a few years, but that her kind of build, her kind of looks, would end up going a certain way, which is where we came in. Blowsy. A blowsy blonde who stays blonder with the bottle, wears a fake tan, and has put on a little too much weight.

But when Lucy and I sidled into the crowded kitchen of Sally's house, the afternoon we arrived, I didn't see such an animal. Looking round the slightly dim room, trying to pick out faces, my eyes alighted on a stranger: a small, intelligent-looking woman, wearing rimless glasses and with hair kept short, neat, and stylish. As she stood up to greet us in the traditional french way, I realised who it was.

"You've grown smaller and we're all bigger, or something," I said.
"Yeah, you look like you've put on about two stone. All these years I've been thinking you were skinny as a rake with sprayed on jeans. I am actually two inches shorter than I used to be."


Doctor Who returns to TV

You get a horrible feeling that the modern day marketing monkeys who make british television these days will make a sad hack of reviving the good doctor.

I'm a fan, but the cancellation was the inevitable end of a long deterioration. I couldn't watch Sylvester McKoy and whatever other Children's TV staples got onto the programme in the 80s. The last halfway watchable Doc was Peter Davidson, if only because his helpers were fairly foccy.

Sean Pertwee is the number one candidate for a revival. You know it makes sense. Him, or Anthony Stewart Head. Or a lady doctor, except it would be June Whitfield or Peggy from EastEnders.

September 25, 2003

Julie Ann

Outlived his dad. Which, I dunno, was bound to happen (you hope), but it's strange to look at his not-quite-familiar face and imagine that we're going to see how John would have looked had he lived. A bit.

Link goes to non-flash version, which didn't work very well. But I refuse to link to a flashed site.

September 24, 2003


Strange Nottingham food incidents. The new girl on reception complained that the chip shop down the road didn't have any cheese.

I thought I'd misheard her. Chips and cheese? Do they mean us? It took me a while to get my head round the idea of mushy peas; and I still won't accept chips and gravy, chips and curry sauce, or chips and kebab meat.

You see, for some people, chips on their own aren't fatty enough, and they like to sprinkle cheese all over them as well.

They wouldn't blink an eye in Chris's Caff. I walked in today feeling frisky, and said, "I'm going to ask for an unusual combination, you won't have heard it before. Bacon.... lettuce.... and tomato."

This was an in-joke, for us boys. A couple of years ago, in the shop next door, some snotty local baseball cap boy yelled out, "Bacon, lettuce and tomato?!! What kind of a combination is that?!"

I do rice and cheese, though. It's comfort food. Boiled white rice with black pepper and grated cheese. Don't get me started.

September 23, 2003

Beautiful Feet

I'm suspicious that the winner and the runners up are all using artificial aids like nail varnish, toe rings, and ankle bracelets. Honestly. How do I know they haven't got horrible toenails going under there?

It's a great chat-up line, though, to tell a woman she has beautiful feet. They're obsessed with their feet, because they're obsessed with shoes.

Sally Sage

Not her real name, of course. Comic genius that I am, I called her that because her name was Sally Onions. There was general hilarity, and she was stuck with the name for ever more.

She was one of the exotic redheads at school; in a distant class, another band, another crowd; we never took any lessons together. I only spoke to her for the first time when we both entered sixth form. I don't know what she was doing there; I was generally wasting time and filling hours -- until the time came to chuck it all and go off to be in a band. I can't remember how we struck up a conversation, but we did.

As I mentioned, she had red hair, which she described as strawberry blonde. It was very orange, in any event. She recounted a funny incident involving the head teacher, who'd accused her in front of the whole dinner hall of dyeing her hair, which was Not Allowed. But it was her natural colour, and you have to wonder what goes through a head teacher's mind when she's made an arse of herself over something like that.

Bright red hair wasn't enough for our Sally, though, and she was also 6 feet tall, more or less; skinny, tall, with a big nose and bright red hair, you could hardly miss her, but I did. We started talking, and discovered a similar sense of humour, once she'd forgiven me for her alliterative nickname.

I think for about five minutes, a few weeks anyway, it was on the cards that if I'd asked her out she'd have gone for it. But I missed that opportunity, and she became a friend-girl rather than a girlfriend. I realised I quite fancied her too late, and kept asking, and she kept saying no. For a while I convinced myself I was in love with her, but in that she only really joined a long list of girls I had a yen for, and also other currencies. It turned out with the passing of time that Lucy was the one I loved the most, but I wasted a lot of time and energy (and words) on Sally Sage.

A couple of my earliest songs were about her; and then there was one I wrote later, which was all about how she wasted my time. Lucy mentioned it to me on the drive down. She'd guessed who it was about, but I'm fairly sure only Lucy has paid any attention to my career, so I think I got away with it.

sally and I were friends only until I left home. She wrote a couple of times, but I could tell her heart wasn't in it -- she made nothing like the effort that Lucy did. Anyway, she had that big Secondary Modern girly handwriting, which is not something I wanted the postman to see. Lucy's writing was more angular and adult, which is much more in keeping. So we lost touch, and it was only when she invited everyone to her house in France that I found out what had become of her.

But actually, it was hard to tell what had become of her. She in no way resembled the girl I'd known. Didier, her second husband, was a good deal older (and louder) than her. She seemed shrunken, almost, sitting quiet, or running round the house getting things for people, mainly Didier. She was hyperactive, up and down from the dinner table fetching condiments that nobody had asked for. Didier's efforts in the kitchen seemed to involve getting the corkscrew out of the drawer. It was hard to get a handle on Sally Sage, and what she might be thinking.

September 22, 2003

In the Café

The village had just the one café, connected to a hotel. There was a small garden terrace with a fountain. There was a view down the street to the church, or you could face the other way onto the covered market place. We'd walked through the market place to get to the café. A sign on one of the walls next to the market said, "Défense de uriner."

We'd just about stopped laughing about it when our café crèmes arrived. Lucy broke a sugar lump in half and stirred it in, looking back down the street to the church.

"I get the impression," I began.
"Your mind seems to be working overtime. This village has a mystery to it, which I'd love to know."
"I was trying to think of a way to explain it. Saint Guthlac is important in all of this. He's not a major saint you know, and I'm not catholic, not practising anyway, so it's not like I'm an expert on saints. But I know about him, because of his connection with the Lincolnshire fens."
"Go on," I said.
"Before he was a saint, he was a hermit. You know there used to be a kind of a career progression, where you'd start off by being a regular monk for several years, then you'd become a hermit for a while, and then you were made a saint. So you just make a decision to be extra holy, and go for it."

When Guthlac decided to be a hermit, she explained, he went off into the fenland. The significance of this was that the fens were considered beneath human notice. It had no utility, so it was judged worthless, in much the same way as parts of the American plains are called Badlands. Bad, as in, too poor to sustain a crop or livestock. The fens weren't valued for their beauty, either. This was in the 9th century, before the Romantic era and all the stuff about beautiful landscapes, or those American theories of the sublime.

So Guthlac, in a way, was like Stig of the dump. He's living in the natural equivalent of a landfill site, or a toilet. But by becoming a holy man, a hermit, then a saint, he suddenly makes the place important.

"Important how?" I asked.
"It's like one of those blue plaques on a building. So-and-so lived here, and now you can't pull this building down or change its façade. Because he lived on the fens, he brought them to people's notice. So the fens became valued. It's like being saved, you know, for born-again Christians. There's a judgement passed on the fens; they now have a value, and they're now worth saving. So if not for Guthlac -- or someone like him -- nobody would have thought, a couple of centuries later, that the land was worth reclaiming."
"So that's when the Dutch engineers show up with their pumping machines and drain the swamps, and turn what was worthless land into farm land."

"So you were asking, why is a village in France named after this saint-of-the-fens..."
"There's a connection, because this land was reclaimed too. Or you could say it was saved or redeemed. And I'm wondering if there isn't also a supernatural element."
"What do you mean?"
"Like somebody thought there was some magic in Guthlac's name."
"Or his bones."
"Exactly. Or his bones."

Funnily enough...

...the technology exists that would allow you to play CDs at differerent speeds. I agree there's something missing in the CD era, because who didn't experiment with playing vinyl at different speeds?

It's time for this Tascam technology to be incorporated into all domestic players. Also you can get software called the amazing slow downer, so you can change pitch and tempo on songs. Everyone should have one.

September 19, 2003

another lunchtime...

... spent down in what we call the Disco Room, recording some guitar with Si onto a track we've been playing with. Given that we only had a *cough*lunch hour*cough*, I joked with him at the beginning that I'd only let him do a couple of takes.

Which, it turned out is exactly what we did. I was still fiddling with the settings while he started his first pass, but by the time he got to the solo it was so beautiful I knew I was going to keep it.

So then the second pass just turned out to be a whole nother track. I put some rotary speaker effect on the second one, panned it left, and left the original take (edited to take out the messing around at the beginning etc) on the right. Somehow the two takes just work perfectly together.

Cubase has a really stupid feature (we were using it because the drum track is currently in Groove Maker, which is a VST plug-in) where it record-enables a track when you select it. So in the middle of Si's second take, when I selected the track above to tweak a setting, we suddenly started to overdub guitar onto the wrong track. Which just goes to prove that Cubase is aimed squarely at the solo bedroom hero, and doesn't think there might be someone at the controls while someone else is playing.

The Beatles to release 'naked' version of 'Let It Be

Let it Be is one of my favourite records, even with the Spector production, so I'm really excited about this. I've never bothered with the bootlegs, don't have a reason except laziness.

I guess what I've always wanted is the "produced" sound intended by the Beatles, rather than some bootlegger's idea of what the album would have been.


Some genius at a marketing company for a database firm sent me a remote control car today. Fantastic! Of course, I threw the marketing gumph in the bin, but that's Chloé's birthday sorted.

September 17, 2003

brass rubbing

Lucy was on her hands and knees looking at a brass inlay in the floor.
"Are you about to start rubbing?" I asked.
"I'm trying to read the inscription. It's been rubbed so many times it's gone faint."
I sat down heavily in a pew and said, "I'm feeling a bit faint myself." She looked up, concerned. "Joking," I said.
She hauled herself to her feet. "Anyway, it's all in Latin, and it's been a long time."

"I am intrigued by what you said about... whatsisname," I said
"Hmmm. I can't work out why he'd lie about something so... easily found out. How did the conversation go?"
"It was late last night. You'd already gone to bed. I was on my way out of their house, and he sort of stopped me... Cornered me a bit, actually."
"Invading your personal space."
"Like that. And a bit smelly. And he asked if I had planned anything for today, so I said I was going to go for a drive with you. This was before I asked you, sorry. First thing I thought of. And he wanted to know if we were going to the beach, and I said, no, actually, I'm really interested in finding a museum or something with information about the land reclamation, you know, what we were talking about, all the monks and the Dutch engineers draining the marshlands and reclaiming land. So like that, and he kept asking questions, all interested, but also kind of aggressive, if you know what I mean."
"Aggressive in what way?"
"Well, okay, so this is a little bit like a busman's holiday, and he was asking what did I want to go doing something work-related for, why wasn't I going to sit by the pool and relax. It was all a bit... you know. A drive out and a trip to a museum or something with a professional interest, doesn't seem too excessive to me."


"Yeah, so I said, is there anywhere round here with a museum? Don't know, he said. I asked, obviously there are places that used to be, you know, on the coast, but now they're inland, and did he know of anywhere like that? Don't know. Is there anywhere near here, I said, where the name would seem to indicate it used to be right next to the sea? Like this, St Guthlac Sur Mer. And he said, don't know. And that was it, I went to bed and thought, well, I don't like him very much, even if he is letting me stay in one of his cottages for free. And then this morning as we walked out and got in the car, there I saw it, the sticker in his windscreen."

"I see."

"So I know, genuinely, you can put something in your car window and completely forget all about it and all that. But this was... this was, 'I don't know,' to every single question. Okay, you might forget the name of the place, you might forget you once put a sticker in your car window, but you don't forget the fact of the place. The place exists, and you know about it."
She sat next to me on the pew, almost as heavily as I had, and sighed. “You think I’m imagining it?”

"No, I believe you, I really do. I just wanted to hear the details. Sorry, I never doubted you in the slightest. There are ways he might not know about it, so it would be easy for him if you confronted him to plead innocence. But Sally was saying last night that he's local, he's lived here all his life, and given he was behaving in an odd way in general, I agree with you, he was lying, but we're still no nearer to knowing why."

"It’s just the most bizarre thing to lie about. All because he didn’t like the idea of me going for a drive with you? Or what?"

The sound of a baby crying outside broke the silence, and suddenly we were no longer alone. "Come on," I said. "Let's find a café, and you can tell me all about this Guthlac geezer."


...this guy, for example. He seems to have an interesting life. He get 0% donations from corporations, and he has actorly good looks, too. And he goes out wilderness trekking with a backpack.

I bet his kids don't lose their homework.

when life is like star trek

Not an original observation, this. There have been too many "everything you know about life you learned from star trek" type things.

But last night was one of those godawful episodes with Worf's kid and Deanna Troy's mother. And I realised, life is like that. There's a sub plot, which could be quite interesting, involving metal parasites eating the ship's systems, and all the interesting characters are involved in that. But then there's the main plot, which you're involved in, and it's all Deanna Troy's mother and Worf's kid.

It's a bit like that scene in Stardust Memories, the one where he's on a train where all the people are miserable, and there's another train where everyone is having fun.

While other people seem to be working out how to prevent alien parasites from destroying everything, I'm trying to prevent Worf's kid from forgetting his homework.

September 16, 2003


Dropping Chloé off at skool yesterday morn, I noted all the other chicks had beige folders with them, containing therein their homework there.

I ask Chlo', why are you the only one without a homework folder? "I dovven't know," she reply.

This morning, after she tell me all about her game she want play which contain sharks and pirates and dolphins, which are mammals, with rainbow patterned fins, I say, that's very imaginative and all, but where is homework?

We ask teacher who seems as head-in-air as Chlo. She can't find folder neither. I say Chloe must check at nursery (who pick her up from skool) to see if she leave it there. But she no remember because she airhead.

I accept by now I not good dad. I grumpy dad.

Marine Boy

With Neptina and Splasher. Now it can be told. I was in love with Neptina. Her lack of genitals didn't seem to be a problem at the time.

My favourite thing about Marine Boy were the oxygen tablets he took so he could swim under water. Along with the lack of jetpacks and anti-gravity boots, the absence of oxy tabs is one of the great disappointments about the future, the future we live in now.

I wrote that yesterday so of course I mean today.

I spent many hours at Luton Indoor swimming pool pretending I was Marine Boy, and pretending I had oxygen tablets. Oddly, I was very good at swimming under water. I could go a whole width of the pool. But then I stopped believing and now I can't even get my head under.

September 15, 2003


Jane met me at the door.
"Hey. We haven't had much of a chance to talk."
"No, I know. It's been..."
"Well, doesn't matter. But I was just going down to the pool. Do you want to come down? We could catch up."
"Actually, I was about to go for a drive with Lucy."
"Oh. You've been spending a lot of time with her."
"Well, I guess."
"Something I should know about...?"
"No, not really. It's..."
"Never mind then. Catch you later."

After she'd gone I stood in the doorway and thought about it. It was true, I'd barely interacted with anybody since arriving. There was a chance this behaviour would seem supercilious, arrogant, to the others. Which would be a continuation of the way I'd behaved towards them at school. It wasn't that I didn't want to spend time with Jane, or Sally, or even Dave. Any of the others. But somehow, it was understood that I was going to look after Lucy. I mean, be her taxi, her sounding board, whatever she wanted. And if she wanted nothing, that was fine, then I'd be free. But if she needed someone to drive her around, I'd do it.

Guilt, obviously. And manifesting itself in a strange way. She'd said nothing, and I'd made no promises, but here we were. No matter what, I was going to do whatever she wanted to do, she came first. It's like we're married, I thought. Not just married, but newly married. And, with my heart pounding in my chest, I realised I was fine with that.

Lucy came up behind me. "Ready?"
"Always ready."
"Who said that?"
"I just did."
"No, it was in a book I think."
"So what were you thinking?"
"I was thinking about how much time we're spending together."
"I know. It's a bit of a scandal I think. Do you mind? I mean, I never intended to monopolise you."
"As long as you don't mind, there's nothing I'd rather be doing."
"Well, that's okay then, isn't it."

She took my hand and gave it a squeeze. "Can I drive?"
"In your dreams."

What they don't tell you

When they talk about their extra long life batteries is how bloody heavy they are.

I got one of these 8-hour thingies for my camcorder. Of course it lasts a long, long time, because you become forever reluctant to use the camera. It's like attaching another camcorder to your camcorder.

Other than that, I'm not feeling very well today.

September 12, 2003

busy day

Couldn't do a lot of this kind of thing today. Lots of meetings, things to do, plus, spent a long lunch doing some editing/mixing in Logic with Si. For the 3rd time this week.

Started with him wanting to capture some acoustic guitar he'd recorded on his old tascam portastudio so he could burn it to CD. But then I tempted him with the EVB3 and he came back the next day with his Jagmaster. So then he overdubbed some country style B-bends, and then we put some Hammond into the middle 8.

So then it was a question of editing and tweaking until we were happy with the overall thing.

All in all, a fairly nice way to spend lunchtimes, though I did bicker with James about his sloppy mouse skills.

September 11, 2003

first love

I know what you're thinking. You want me to fill you in a little. Give you a bit of background colour. What was the story between me and Lucy, between me and Lucy and James?

I have to apologise, but I truly remember very little. I remember the first time I noticed Lucy. We (the class) were standing in the corridor outside a classroom in the week we all started at the Big School. We had to do that, wait outside for the teacher to come along and allow us in. So there were twenty, thirty, 13-year old kids all milling around in the narrow space at the top of a staircase, between 2 closed classrooms. I was leaning against the outside window, and Lucy was leaning against the firedoor that led to the stairs. We did a lot of leaning in those days. She was standing next to a taller, blonder girl called Elaine. Lucy had already developed the crooked smile.

So everyone was there, but in my mind I can picture just four of us. Elaine, Lucy, Jane Hinchcliffe, and me. Someone was standing next to me, and Lucy was talking to him, but I can't picture who it was. Not James. James was not in our class, not in any of our classes, apart from Maths. Jane is asking me about the timetable. She did that a lot at first, until I was horrible to her about something. After that she befriended a psycho girl who used to disrupt every lesson.

So that's it. The first memory. I don't remember what we might have talked about. After that there was just a gradual process of growing closer, helped by the fact that Lucy and Hazel Brown and I all did Latin together.

Later, in the sixth form, I used to do two subjects with Hazel; and Lucy was in English too. By that time we were very close, and with James and I inseparable, he got to know Lucy as well as I did. We used to talk about her together, how brilliant she was. And then, at some sixth form party or other, he asked her out. And came back in amazed, both at himself for asking and at her for saying yes. Okay. For saying, I will.

That was the beginning of the end for me.

September 10, 2003


“So tell me about it,” she said.
“About what?”
“Your life.”
“You first.”
“I asked first.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
“Start with why you stopped speaking to me.”
I felt like Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon. “Why, Mr Spade, you certainly are a man who likes to get straight to the point.”
“Stop stalling.”
“I have to say to you, it’s a hard place to start.”
“Because I’ve thought about it over and over again over the past… years, you know, and apart from saying I was fucking insane there’s not a whole lot of reason I can find for why I did that.”
“Why were you insane?”
“I was jealous.”
“You’ll have to explain that. I don’t understand that.”

I didn’t know where to go next, so I drank some of my coffee, which was strong, bitter, and oily. Then I said,“I was jealous of you and James. Which I thought was obvious."
“Of the two of us, or just one of us?”
“I don’t know how else to put it. I wanted you, he had you, it destroyed me.”
“But you had… You know… You were…”
“There were others.”
“Yeah. What about…?”
“Sally, for example?”
“Yeah. Her.”
“She… she was never really interested in me, though was she? I mean, she tolerated the fact that I was all puppydog about her. But it was also safer for me that she wasn't interested.”
“And I wasn’t safe?”
“You were my friend. I could actually speak to you and get along with you on an equal footing. Aside from James, you were my best friend. You were part of my life. If I could rewrite history I would say you were, in fact, my best friend, more than he ever was. Then suddenly you were his girlfriend, and he had access to parts of you, to times of the day with you, that I didn’t have. He knew what you looked like on a Saturday afternoon. He knew what it was like to kiss you, to touch your skin. He knew what your house looked like, what your family was like. I knew you at school and that was it. And afterwards, I knew you through him only. Suddenly this really important part of my life was behind a door marked, ‘Property of James.’ I know that’s not the right way to say it, but I had to go through him to get to you.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“That’s how I felt.”
“But that’s… what about all the letters we wrote to each other? Did you think he was reading them over my shoulder? Or dictating the replies?”
“Of course not. But you’re assuming rational thought at work. There was none. I was like a baby who wants something but can’t reach it. I just felt like…”
“Shall I tell you what I felt like?”
“When you stopped speaking to me.”
“Like I’d smacked you in the face?”
“Like you’d kicked me in the guts. I felt like the worst person in the world, that I’d done something terribly, terribly wrong."
"And there's nothing I can say to put that right. There are no words. I've regretted it for twenty years, and another twenty years of the same regret still won't make it right."

Vanilla pokey update

Finally, got a bottle of diet vanilla pokey from the shop this lunchtime. But there was only the one bottle, and no cans.

So now I'm thinking it tastes like someone got an empty bottle and filled it with brown liquid, for a bit of a laugh.


There had been a time, shortly after I left school and before she and James had, Lucy visited me where I was staying. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t exactly living in the best circumstances, but I made the effort to get the place as clean as possible for her weekend visit. It was a spring bank holiday, Easter holiday, something like that. I was sharing a flat with a couple of other members of my band, and there was a choice when she visited of sleeping on the couch in the communal living area, or sticking a camp bed in my bedroom. She was really nice about it and insisted I use the camp bed option. Otherwise there’d have been no getting to sleep.

We went out for a drink in the evening and missed the last bus home. Couldn’t afford a taxi, so we walked home, which was about three or four miles. We got in really late, and then we went to our separate beds. The flat was cold, so she was borrowing one of my jumpers. I had this baggy woolly jumper that I’d scalded by drying it too close to the fire. So it was blue with a kind of orange burn on it. That was as close as I ever got to seeing her naked. She had the most beautiful legs. Smooth and brown. She was wearing nothing but my big baggy jumper and her underwear, and I got a quick look at her legs as she got into bed and under the covers. My fingers were burning with the anticipation of what it might feel like to touch her, to gently run my hand over her skin.

We lay there in the dark for about another hour, talking about things. We’d spent the evening talking, then the long walk home talking, and then we couldn’t stop talking. It was the first time we’d had some much time together, and certainly the only time I got to spend as much time with her without James being there. Staring at the ceiling in the dark, feeling the night breeze blowing across my room from the open window, I was saying a silent prayer that she’d ask me to get in bed with her. No way I was going to make the first move. My best friend’s girl and all. I don’t know what she was thinking, maybe she too was worried how awkward it would be with the James involvement.

It was a night and a feeling that stayed with me for years afterwards. Nothing to sour or bitter the experience, years later, just a remote sadness at a missed opportunity mingled with the deep contentment I felt after having had that time to talk. It was a good talk.

September 09, 2003

from me fridge

Another fantasy project this. Something I'm good at is cobbling together a meal based on what's left in the fridge. There are degrees of this. Sometimes I've got some fairly decent ingredients that I've bought because of special offers etc. Other times there really isn't much of promise at all. Both can result in great meals, though.

Tonight was very much the former case.

Chicken and Asparagus
I had two chicken breasts in the freezer, and they were Saino's Be Good To Yerself type, because I've made a vow not to buy the floppy and watery kind any more. I also had a package of fresh asparagus, the extra thin kind, which I like best.

I served this with easy cook basmati rice, which takes about 15 minutes. You can start the rice at the same time as the chicken/asparagus.

First thing was to chop and fry a red onion in a large frying pan. I used low-cal cooking spray, but the degree of low-calness is up to you.
When the onion is soft, find half a packet of pine nuts in the cupboard and chuck them in. Doesn't have to be half a packet, especially as they're quite calorific.
Cook the pine nuts with the onions for a while, then add the cubed chicken breast and brown it off. A proper chef would have browned the chicken breast first and then returned it to the pan at this point, but who has time for that?
Next, a splash of white wine from a bottle you happen to have hanging around in the kitchen. About a glass of wine should be right.
To this you want to add a little bit of chicken stock (I always keep a tub of powdered Knorr stock in the cupboard), about a quarter of a pint. Before you add the stock, rub a bit of saffron into it, just a pinch. Saffron is a storecupboard ingredient for me.
Add the stock, bring the heat up, and allow the liquid to reduce a bit. Oh, and a tablespoon of honey at this point won't go amiss. Stir it in. Saffron and honey go great together, and it'll add a nice caramel colour. A bit of black pepper at this point won't hurt.
Get your package of asparagus from the fridge and break it into bite size pieces. Wash it, then stick it in a microwaveable dish with a splash of water.
About 4 minutes before the rice is cooked, push the asparagus into the microwave and cook it on full for a couple of minutes at the most.
Add it to the chicken dish and stir it in.
Finally, stir in about 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche. Again, I used the half fat kind, but you could use full fat if you don't care by this point.
By this point the rice should be cooked, and you're ready to go.

you have an appointment that has passed

I don't know whether this could be the title of a novel or if I shouldn't save it for the title of my autobiography. It's the message that used to pop up in Claris Organiser, back when I attempted to use an organiser. Sometimes I still get "This appointment appears in the past," in Outlook, but it doesn't have the same ring.

You could also make something of "If you're not who you are click here."

But I like "You have an appointment that has passed," because it sums up a certain character type quite neatly.


Lucy asked if I wanted to go out for a drive. I wanted. For a while we didn't talk, and then we did. The sky was a uniform blue -- or black, if you're watching in infra-red. We found a side road that wound through several villages. They were all beautiful. After a while we started ranking them in terms of dream home desirability, deciding quickly that even the most minor flaw would disqualify it. For example, one had just one flower under the "Villages Fleuris" ranking, which was pathetic, unless you're a hay fever sufferer. Lucy had borrowed a map from Sally. After a while she caught her breath and started issuing instructions.

"Where are we going?"
"I've got to see this." She was pointing to a spot on the map.
"What is it?"
"It's a village called St Guthlac sur Mer."
"And, it's clear from the map it's about 10 kilometres inland. Looking at the contour lines, it used to be right on the old coastline before they reclaimed all this land from the sea."
"Right up your alley, in other words."

When we were two kilometres from the village, Lucy folded the map and leaned back in her seat with a sigh of contentment.

"So. Weird or what?" she asked. "The last time we saw these people we were all children."
I agreed. "But I'd have punched your lights out if you'd called me a child back then."
"It's hard to think back what everyone was like. Some people think you can see the adult in the child, but it's not always so easy. You haven't changed much, but Mike - for example - is unrecognisable. Douglas seems like a really cool and contented guy, too, but what was he like then?"
"He always seemed nervy and spotty to me."
"Exactly. Whereas Mike worked at being the coolest guy in the school and has turned into a..."
"Sad, middle-aged, sack of potatoes."
"Don't forget bald."
"I feel for him a bit in that respect. I know it must have hurt when he realised it was happening. I was expecting something like that myself."

We passed the sign welcoming us to St Guthlac sur Mer, and then another one directing us to the Vieux Port. There wasn't a lot else to the village. On the hillside, there were some new houses going up, as there seemed to be everywhere we'd been. Some of them were in the classic Vendéen style, two side bits with a mini tower bit in the middle. The roof were red, the shutters blue, the walls, where painted, were white.

I saw a faded blue P for parking and pulled in to an empty car park. We stepped out of the air conditioned car into the ineffable hanging heat. The tarmac sizzled and the air shimmered. The cooling fan in the Audi kicked in automatically and somewhere in the village a church bell rang. It was half past 12 on the village church clock and the place seemed deserted.

"Do you think we'll need our coats?" she said.

I still don't want one

Macworld UK - 40GB iPod launched

Make no mistake, for people who have a need for that kind of thing, the iPod is undoubtedly a nice thing. I've no objections to it on grounds of looks or size or weight - or even the fact that Sun journalists and Beckhams now have them.

But I only really listen to music in my car, in which I already have a CD player. What I like about CDs is being able to keep the vast majority of my collection in one place, and the ones I'm playing at the moment in another. You see? It's not about having thousands of songs all together. It's what it's always been about: there were the records you had neatly stacked away, and the ones you had all over your bedroom floor.

That's why I like Clutter.

I've always worried, too, about the life of the iPod's battery. The first generation was a bit dodgy, and I'm sure they've improved it, but I'd feel a lot happier if it was just NIMH AA batteries that you could easily swap out.

I know that many people wear their iPods on the street, but I am concerned for their safety. The only guy I ever knew who was mugged happened to be wearing a walkman, with his hands in his pockets. He didn't hear them coming and then he couldn't get his hands out of his pockets in time when they knocked him down. I don't jog, I cycle, and the thought that I might not be able to hear the cars coming up behind me on country roads is terrifying.

Kids: you need your ears to survive.

September 08, 2003


"But the thing is," she said, "I never said anything like that to him."
"So how did he know?"
"If you didn't tell him...?"
"Then I don't know. Also he lied about something else."

We'd stopped in front of the church. The sign into the village had said it was 12th century, and even the little I knew about architecture was enough to confirm this. A rough arch framed the door, which was of old oak and open halfway. My eyes struggled with the contrast between bright sunshine and the dark interior, but it didn't look as if there was anyone inside.

"Shall we?" she asked.

Without waiting for an answer, she walked into the cool church and I followed, asking, "What did he lie about?"

"Something really odd. He said he didn't know the name of the church here, but he had a commemorative sticker in his rear window. Saint Guthlac Sur Mer, Fête des Marais 2000. Something like that anyway."
"Perhaps he forgot."
"Perhaps, but it seems an odd thing to forget."
"But why would you lie about something like that?"
"I've no idea. But I thought I should say."

She stopped in front of the altar, looked up at one of the dusty-looking stained glass windows. There was nobody else in the church, and as my eyes became accustomed I could make out more detail.

"So," she said, with a full stop. "Why is a no-longer fishing port in the Vendée named after an eighth century English saint?"
"Perhaps it's not the same Guthlac?"
"No it is. See, that window, that scene portrays Guthlac talking to the animals in the fens. And that one shows a crow or raven eating one of his eyes."

Nothing to do on Saturday Night

In the Nothing to do on a Saturday Night quiz, I scored 65 out of 70, which makes my Quiz Quotient 141, apparently.

So what you always suspected of me is true. I also knew my last answer was wrong, because Babette knew the right answer, but I didn't cheat. Which also probably confirms what you always suspected of me.


My source of mystery was not so much the NME, apart from the odd article by Nick Kent and CSM, but I had a three-volume Encyclopaedia of Rock, which went up to about 1975. So there was really nothing in it that was very current when I was just getting into music. While my peers were getting into Punk, I was exploring some back alleys.

EofR it was written in that rock journalese style that made things - in print - seem so exciting and mysterious. The best (or worst) example of this (outside of the EofR) was Greil Marcus, writing on just about anything. Whether it was "Mystery Train" or "The Basement Tapes" he made you think you were really, really missing out on something.

Most of the records I bought between 1977 and 1980 I had to special order. I had to do this for the Who Live at Leeds, the Doors first album, Velvet Underground records, even some Beatles records.

Sometimes things were as good as they were cracked up to be, but most of the time, not.

Even Born To Run, when I first heard it, was filtered through all the myth-making articles I'd read on it. Even now, I can't rate Born to Run higher than, say, Human Touch or Lucky Town. Whereas those albums really spoke to me at a particular stage in my life, BTR was just another box to tick on the Great List of Rock Legends.

While I still know more about 60s and 70s music than is probably healthy, there is a long list of records that I felt, as Roy would say, had been listened to for me, and I just can't unfilter my first - usually slightly disappointed - reaction from their actual quality.


They should call Today Tomorrow, because all they ever do on radio news programmes in the morning is speculate about what's going to happen.

I detuned from Radio 4 during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. My first exposure to 5Live was Jane Garvey broadcasting almost inaudibly from an Atlanta bar. I thought, "This is refreshing, and she's quite funny."

5Live has stylistic quirks that annoy me, but there's none of the Radio 4land nonsense of religion and Thoughts for the Day and Women's Hour and Arts programmes about things nobody cares about.


I'm reading Prey by MichaelCrichton. I got it free with my breakfast cereal (well, two packets). The usual Crichton page-turner, so effortlessly done.

But I thought the comment on his web page about the younger generation being up to the challenge of nanotechnology was a bit patronising. So much more reassuring if Crichton pointed out how stupid young people are and how they couldn't possibly cope with a nano-threat. He needs to go all Prince Charles on us and get people really scared.

Translation Toy

Babelizer for OS X takes the manual element out of multiple translations. It keeps translating till the result no longer mutates.

what puts at me with the spirit of my first recordings with the center
of the music of the family and a cheap portable tape recorder.

September 05, 2003

St. Guthlac

Amazingly, ths could be our man. Fantastically strange name, events that happened long ago in the marshes of Lincolnshire... perfect for my land reclamation theme.

Unintentional Hilarity

This has been an (almost) lifelong thing of mine. It takes a variety of forms. Sometimes, people have thought me sharper than I actually am, when I manage to pun on something we're talking about. They think I've - quick as a flash - thought of a joke and worked it into the conversation.

This is an entirely unconscious process.

We all know what it means to be laughed at rather than with. When I was 17 and still at school I was lucky enough to attend a creative writing course organised by these people. One of the first things the tutors asked me (and all the others) to do was hand in something I'd written. So I submitted my very first consciously written (as in "I want to be a writer") short story, which was called, I think, "Remembering Old Tomsy."

Shit title. Written, probably, in the style of J D Salinger; and hence, like Holden Caulfield, unintentionally funny. Like many 17 years olds, I'd read Holden without irony, unable to perceive the all-knowing presence of the writer.

So the tutors sat, taking turns with the pages, and laughing uproariously. I mean, u-p-r-o-a-r-i-o-u-s-l-y. First one, on page one, and then the other. So the laughter was peeling out of the room for about 15 minutes as they read.

Nonplussed at first, I decided it was probably a good thing that I was making these guys laugh. Really laugh.

Since then I've been aware of being (sometimes) funny, without finding much of what I write funny at all. Not in the slightest. I've never analysed it, nor tried to do it consciously, because I'm too afraid of losing it.

I've probably lost it now, just by committing this to blog. Visiting the Arvon Foundation web site makes me want to do one of their courses again. I want to do Advanced Media Slagging.

St. Aaron

The first of many, many saints in an A-Z of all saints happens to be quite appropriate for what I was thinking of. A native of Britain who moved to Brittany.

(Or, just got confused between Britain and Brittany, and though it was more or less the same thing.)

And he becomes a hermit, which must be the Route 1 of sainthood. You don't need to do anything in particular other than go a bit mad and live in a cave.

teething problems

I'll say. I love this industry. No other industy operates like this, where it is expected that anything new will break anything old that's supposed to run with it.

Your new DVD player will not work with your old TV. You'll have to buy a new TV, or wait for an update. This new guitar you bought is incompatible with your old amp. You can either carry on as before and use the old guitars, or update and play the new one only.

For a few years, as they struggled to obtain processors that would match Intel etc in the MHz race, Apple moved towards more commoditised computers, but they're trapped by an industry press and by customers who prefer the traditional, "If it ain't broke, update it so that it will break" philosophy. Apple (and all other computer manufacturers) are forced by their own customers and industry expectaions to bring out next-generation machines in a rapid development cycle that allows for no stability.

It's because the loudest, most vocal, most influential computer users are all early-adopter types. These people are the very worst people to have driving an industry, because they expect bugs and fixes and problems as part of every day life. They're also unattractive and unhygienic.

September 04, 2003

Unfinished Novel #5

Haven't got a title for this one yet, just a few ideas, only some of which are written down. It'll probably end up being called St Benedict's Balls or something. Or bells. St Benedict's Bells. Or bell end.

Slightly under the influence of Friends Reunited, this one starts off with the idea of a school reunion, organised by an old friend of the narrator.

Narrator is a musician, similar to the character in BYAIC (but not quite so much of a weasel, hopefully). He's had some slight success in his early career, then faded into a kind of obscurity. Opting out of his band, and of rehashing their one hit album to a dwindling fan base, he's relocated to Nashville and made some success as a song writer. Part of this success involved a marriage to a country singer whose career went ballistic under the influence of his production and co-writing (I'm thinking Mutt 'n' Shania type thing).

Now divorced, he's comfortably off and living alone back in England, at something of a loose end. Then he gets an email from an old school friend/acquaintance, inviting him to a special reunion in France. Old friend, call her Sally, now married and owns a number of holiday cottages on a complex. She's making them all available for the reunion weekend.

He posts a "reply all" offering a lift down in his mid-life crisis vehicle to anyone who needs one. He gets a reply from an old friend, call her Lucy, who used to be his best friend's girlfriend.

So we're seeing some recurring themes here. We're talking love triangles, love unrequited, bitterness, betrayal, undercurrents of tension.

So they drive down together and have a conversation about all that.

She's working as a university researcher and teacher, specialising in coastal erosion, land reclamation, villages lost to the sea and all that. She's had a chequered history, but we won't go into that, because I think I may have laid it on a bit thick.

Arriving in France, we move into the second act. The holiday cottages are in the Vendée, naturally, which of course features huge areas of land reclaimed from the sea hundreds of years ago by Dutch experts and monastic labour.

Other reunion attendees include Lucy's ex, the former best friend and band mate of the narrator, and a bunch of minor characters. Sally and her husband make everyone welcome, but for some reason both the narrator and Lucy find the husband a bit of a creep.

So Lucy and the narrator go out exploring and discover a little village called something like St Benoit Sur Mer, only I'm going to find another saint's name, to be perfectly fictional.

I want to fill in a lot of detail on the Saint, so that it's like than Don Delillo thing, where you think it's all made up but it turns out to be real.

St Benoit will turn out to have some connection with reclaiming land from the sea.

St Benoit sur Mer will turn out to be about 10kms from the sea, present day, but used to be a fishing port. The church in St Benoit will contain saintly relics belonging to the saint himself, which will turn out to have been stolen from a village in Norfolk which has since been lost-to-the-sea, but which will be called something like Saint Benedict village, except the anglicised name will be different.

The church there fell into the water in 1760 something, but locals say you can still hear the bells and all that.

So this will become this kind of supernatural historical land reclamation superstition mystery thing. I like the idea, but I don't know if I'll ever get time to write it.

where's my car

Babette had my car for 2 days (long story) and now I've got it back I've lost my comfortable driving position. This is a problem. When I got the Passat in May it took me about a month, and a couple of thousand miles, to get the seat distance/height and steering wheel position just about right. The more options I have, the more confused I get.

Now I've lost it again. Someone should invent a car that measures you for height and weight, arm length etc., and just adjusts itself correctly. This would probably have a huge impact in terms of driving safety, not to mention the perennial back problems that afflict so many people.

This morning I was all over the place, back and forwards, up and down, trying combinations I've almost certainly never tried before. And this is before I get started on the so-called lumbar support that gives me backache.

September 03, 2003

Unfinished Novel #4: Buy Yourself an Ice Cream

This was written in the last half of 1994 on my Panasonic word processor, which was the last thing I used before I got my first Mac. I wrote all my undergraduate essays on it, and "Buy Yourself an Ice Cream" was the last thing I wrote before selling it. It saved everything on floppy disks, but I didn't make much of an effort to recover the text from these disks, so all the words are lost now.

I may still have a hard copy somewhere, but I doubt it.

The title comes from something you might do with spare change, with what's left over when you're done doing the main thing. But I appear to have forgotten what the hell I was thinking about when I came up with that title.

Much of BYAIC was cannibalised from earlier inspirations. For example, the "Tell me a movie," line appears more often here than it did in MK. Also the original Burt Lancaster movie of The Obald appears here.

The plot concerns a musician, part of a band, who is travelling down to do some recording in London with his band-mates, including his soon-to-be-ex-best-friend. I think it turns out he's in love with the best friend's girlfriend, and stuff goes on.

Someone who read it, who didn't know me, said that the narrator came across as a bit of a weasel, which is a shame, because I don't think I meant him to be. Obviously I meant him to be enormously sympathetic, in much the way I am myself, but weasel is what came across.

My favourite was the "Shit Stories" chapter, which you may remember me collecting from all and sundry. I remember one drunken night in the Old Angel in Nottingham hearing one after the other. There's a whole nother potential weblog in shit stories on their own.

Anyway, I'm almost certain it ended with the same scene as MK, though it would have been after a few more pages. I may even have stretched to 300 this time.

Where's Betty?

In the age of the innernet, almost everything that was once mysterious and interesting seems to become available. Missing Righteous Brothers turn up unscathed, legendary Velvet Underground recordings are released (and the band reunites and plays live). But Bettie Page still seems to be missing.

Why is that? I've the utmost respect for people who get lost and stay lost. J.D. Salinger, there's another one.

back of Your Hand

Video. One of those essentially meaningless music videos with lots of imagery and not much heart, apart from the song itself.

Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam's web site was Macromedia Site of the day on August 31 2000. Which is nothing to boast about, and is probably a claim that could be taken down by now.

Like most flash based sites, you waste a lot of time here trying to work out where stuff is. Whatever.

Dwight's latest, Population Me, is his best record for a number of years, with hardly a duff track. The clincher for me is the last song, "The Back of Your Hand," which is as good as anything he's ever done.

And the best thing is, the album lasts well under my tolerance limit (for anyone) of 40 minutes.

Unfinished novel #3: Milton Keynes - a Ghost Story

Although this was written at a later stage, on new hardware, I'm as vague on the details of this as I was on #1.

Both The Obald and MK: a Ghost Story were written on my second typewriter, a Brother Golf-ball Electric. This was my favourite of all my pre-Mac machines, and I loved being able to change the typeface by swapping out the golf-ball. I had plain text (Courier or Pica, not sure), a script, and an italic (not a true italic, but a slanted roman). This was good stuff.

I made full use of all three typefaces on the typescript.

MK was written around 1987/88 had an unreliable narrator; he's basically talking about girls he's been in love with, whilst pursuing a new love interest. He doesn't tell his new girlfriend what's on his mind. It's coming back to me now. There was some personal history with one of his old girlfriends (more a friend-girl than a girlfriend), and some promise made when they were teenagers, a promise to always be available to help.

So I'm writing this at the time I've just moved in with Angela; we'd lived together for a year and then bought a house together, and almost on the day we picked up the keys to the new house, I met Nicola P., who would be a great lost love. It ends up around 230 pages, and that's the context.

So he has this ex friend-girl-friend, we'll call Paula, and she's in trouble and contacts him years later. Or she's gone missing and someone contacts him and asks him to find her.

There's a nice thing that goes on throughout between him and his new girlfriend, where they're lying in bed together and she says, "Tell me a movie." Which is when he tells her the plot of The Obald, as a movie, starring Burt Lancaster, which is how I originally dreamt it.

BBC2 were showing a Burt Lancaster season at the time.

So the short version is, he eventually sorts out this Paula, and puts it all to rest, and it looks like everything is okay. Or he doesn't sort it out, and it all turns into a tissue of lies and deceit, and he walks away from the situation, wanting a clean, Paula-free future with his current squeeze.

And he's ended up with his new girlfriend in their new house in Milton Keynes. And at the end, they're embracing in the bedroom, about to go to bed, and while they're kissing, he opens his eyes, thinking of Paula.

Which was the "ghost" part of it. Heavy on the irony there.

To summarise, and be heavy-handed about it, the novel was about being haunted by your past, not being able to let go of it, in spite of the damage it does to your present and future relationships.

September 02, 2003

Unfinished Novel #2: The Obald

Theobald was a neon sign in a sewing machine shop in Luton. This is ca. 1983. I'm sitting on the bus stop bench with Kim M. for nights on end doing the dirty under our coats while we waited for bus. I noticed that the neon sign was badly made, with a gap between The and obald.

The Obald was born.

Set in a dystopian future, it features a heroine, Melody Midwinter, who came from the fantasy regions of my brain. Her dad, her mentor, was voiced in my head as I was writing by Burt Lancaster. He's somewhere between the Lancaster of Sweet Smell of Success, and the self-charicature who turns up in Local Hero. "Good sky you've got here tonight, Macintyre. Well done."

Melody and her father are the hub of a resistance movement, struggling against a secret government, you know. The ones who are really controlling everything underneath the quotidian politics you see on the news. There's some kind of secret book, a small pamphlet of around 118 pages, which gives The Answer.

It's like a Zen thing, a little like a Richard Bach book. Naturally the Secret Government is trying to suppress it, and is doing so with violence. Establishing the truth about people and all that.

The Obald stands both for this secret government and for a real place, a place of secrets. You're walking on the London Underground and you see a door with no label, locked, leading where? You're in an underground car park, and there in the wall, behind the barrier, is another door, painted green. Not an exit, but where does it lead?

This is the Obald, found in the oldest and strangest stations, like Elephant and Castle, at the bottom of the spiral staircase; on the end of the lift that doesn't open when you get down there.

The secret government knows everything about you, from your shoe size upwards. This anticipated the kind of 24-hour surveillance identity card society we're still moving towards; the society of calls being monitored and email being read.

I think it ended up being 180 pages or so. I was heavily under the influence of A Singular Man by JP Donleavy at the time, so I expect that's the style of it.

Can't remember how it ended though. Later I turned it into a short story called "Movie." Later still I turned "Movie" into a chapter in another unfinished novel.

Unfinished Novel #1

Wrote the first just after I left school at 18, on my first typewriter, which was an Olivetti. I'm not even sure if it was electric; I don't think so. Can't remember the title; took me a couple of months to write.

Ended up with around 118 pages. Details are sketchy now, but the narrator, an aspiring artist, was obsessed with some girl, and she was featuring large in the painting he was working on. Some other girl was obsessed with him and threw a wobbly over something or other and went into a catatonic state. Yes, details are very sketchy. I do remember that I didn't really know what a catatonic state involved, and still don't.

They ended up going to France together. I was obsessed with writing bad poetry based on Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands at the time, so I expect it was shocking.


Wynonna's got a new album out. Her records always sound great, and although she occasionally covers songs you wish she wouldn't (like I Want To Know What Love Is on this one), she always gives them a unique treatment. It's usually possible to forget the original.

Her version of "Burning Love" on the soundtrack of Lilo and Stitch was ace, and even her "Free Bird" was pretty good.

I could do without her slower ballady type things, just because there're too many strings and schmaltzy bits going on, but when she pulls out all the stops there's no-one to touch her.

I like "It All Comes Down to Love" best so far. It has a great intro which sounds like a Sheryl Crow number, which in turn sounded like "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band.

the car that parks itself

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | And now the car that parks itself

It's a macho thing, isn't it, reversing into parking spaces? Makes no earthly difference which way you go in. In fact, the only time I ever hit anything in a car park I was driving forwards out of a space in Babette's car.

You see people at Sainsbury's, having reversed into a space like the Real Men they are, then struggling to get their shopping from the trolley into the boot.

Google Search: hoses of the holy

Google Search: hoses of the holy

Which just goes to show, there's always some idiot who's gone before.

September 01, 2003

friends unrequited/internet stalking

It’s always strange to drive through Dunstable now, and realise how few people-that-I-knew still live there. It’s as if a bomb went off around 1981 and scattered everyone. The blast radius varies. Some only blew to the periphery, the kind of outlying villages that used to have buses that went to our school. Like Leighton Buzzard, Totternhoe, Eaton Bray, Kensworth. But others seem to have been made of a flimsier material and blew to the south coast, way out west, or – in my case – points north.

London was always too much of a thing, where I lived. Dunstable is only around 30 miles north of London, which means nothing these days. It’s still a relatively short commute. I know there are people buying houses near to where I live now, simply because London is “just” two hours away, and there’s a posh school round the corner. Anyway, unless you wanted to work at Vauxhall in Luton or Bedford Trucks in Dumpstable, London was always a place you thought about working. From there, it’s but a short leap to decide that Hemel Hempstead, St. Albans, or Harpenden look nicer.
There aren’t many places uglier than Dumpstable.

Funnily enough, Dunstable was always a little bit of a black hole when it came to people-that-I-knew. Most of the girls I liked back then lived in the outlying areas. Helen P lived in Eaton Bray. Linda R and Juliet M lived in Totternhoe. Jenny H. came all the way from Leighton Buzzard. But this all made a kind of sense, because all of those villages were closer to my school than my house, which was practically in Luton.
So the bomb went off, and everyone is scattered, but a few people have registered on friendsreunited. This web site is old news, except it still throws up the odd thing. And I still look occasionally because I’m still hoping a few of the people-that-I-knew will register.

I have issues, obviously.

The main one is, I remember surprisingly little about stuff that happened when I was 17-going-on-18. I’ve tried to work out why this is, and I have a few theories, but nothing solid. One thing I’d sort of forgotten, I had glandular fever (mononucleosis) for the last few weeks of 1980. But I don’t really remember when that started. Could have been October, but possibly as late as November. The other thing is that I was very mean to people sometimes and I might have conveniently forgotten just how badly I treated some people.

I reserved all my affection for the people who were almost completely indifferent to me. Anyone who showed the slightest bit of interest in me or affection towards me were summarily dismissed.
The worst example of this, of course, was Linda R, though in her case the third factor was the fact that she was dating my so-called best friend. I have blanked a large part of why I lost touch with Linda, but I’m certain that it had a lot to do with me being a twat.

As far as other people are concerned, the blank spaces are deeper and wider.
As you may remember, not long ago I was randomly invited to a surprise 40th birthday party. The inviter was someone I never knew, now married to Fiona W from school. I decided, probably wisely, that I would not turn up and embarrass the bejesus out of her, mainly because I couldn’t remember much about her at all.

I remembered she had red hair, and was quite attractive. I also recalled getting along with her quite well in the week of the sixth form biology field trip. Some vivid memories of that week, not all of them good, but enough. One fragmented memory is of a sort of ruckus going on in the youth hostel dormitory, which culminated in a quickly snatched kiss – with her doing the snatching.
It would have been about this point that I started to emotionally withdraw from her, on the grounds that she was showing interest in me. If she turned up at my front door, like Julie E had a few years earlier, I’d have closed the door on her face, no matter how far she’d walked.
Also Paula B was there that week, and I was almost certainly pinning all my hopes on her, on the basis that she had no interest in me and was already dating Kerry Dixon. So there’s huge blank space after the snatched kiss, after that week, and I’m almost certain that that means I was unforgivably horrible to Fiona quite soon after.

This, among other things, is something I would like to put right. For too long I operated under a policy of not looking back, of burning bridges, of Being Here Now and forgetting the past. Taken as a whole, my teenage behaviour owed too much to being unhappy at home and taking it out on everybody else. Obviously you can’t go back, but it feels odd to be 40 and not to really have any friends my own age. That is strange. There are certain levels of conversation you can’t get to with people 10 years younger than yourself. You hit the obvious barriers of having grown up in slightly different eras, and then you hit the obvious barriers of people just not being that interested.
So. These are the names I look out for on friendsreunited. Linda R is the main. I’ll write more on her another day. Fiona was actually one of them; I can’t really explain why, except perhaps a vague feeling that something went wrong too early on and it has left an empty space. But now having not turned up to her surprise party, and yet having replied to the invitation, the ball is in her court. Were I too, say, use the address I was given for the party location, it would be too much like stalking.

Mostly it’s a disappointment, friendsreunited. You read all the so-called success stories. But the few people I’ve been in touch with as a result haven’t exactly been enthusiastic. This is not surprising, given my largely hostile treatment of them back then. But I feel I’m trying to beat a path halfway between complete lack of interest and Sad Bloke with No Friends. Somewhere in the middle is where I am, interested in exchanging news, and keen, where possible, to issue apologies. I don’t want to move house to be closer to people, or have their phone numbers so I can bug them at work. Don’t even, most of the time, want to meet up for that drink. But somewhere out there, there’s a bunch of people who are my 40-year-old friends. Sure, over the years we’ve gone our separate ways and we don’t see much of each other anymore, but we have enough shared history to be able to pass the time when there’s time, and make sympathetic noises.

Vanilla Pokey

As you know, I'm no great fan of Pokey Pola, but the new Diet Vanilla Pokey flavour has been a big hit with me, offering its combination of low-cal caffeine and cream soda flavour. I've been buying it regularly at the shop down the road from work at lunchtime. Except on days when I go to the fish and chip shop, when I have ginger beer.
Ginger beer is the king of fizzy drinks.
But I fear the local shop is having cash flow problems, because there is currently a shortage of Diet Vanilla Pokey, and has been since the bank holiday. They often stock Pokey that seems to have come from former Eastern Bloc countries like Slovakia or Slovenia; and they do odd chocolate. Like imitation Mars bars which aren't: slightly smaller but similar style.
First they ran out of the bottles; now they've run out of cans. Today I was forced to choose between full-fat Vanilla Pokey and something else, like fizzy water.
I note that PepsiCo have got their own Vanilla Pokey coming out. I can't wait. But if the Coca Cola Company came out with shit-flavoured pokey, PepsiCo would dooubtless do the same.

Roy thought I should do this. I think he is wrong. The last thing the world needs is yet another innernet user droning on about nothing.